June 25, 2006


Another Kennedy Living Dangerously (MARK LEIBOVICH, 6/26/06, NY Times)

ONE of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s family mementos is a boyhood photo of himself in the Oval Office with his uncle President John F. Kennedy. Then 9, Mr. Kennedy — who is still known as Bobby — had just given the president a spotted salamander in a small vase. The salamander appears to be dead.

"He does not look well," President Kennedy told Bobby as they observed the slimy pet. The president is prodding it with a pen, to no avail. "I was in denial," Bobby Kennedy said, explaining that he had probably doomed the salamander by keeping it in chlorinated water.

Not to attach too much significance to a dead salamander, but, oh, what the heck: the photo distills some Bobby Kennedy essentials — his matter-of-fact presence in royal circles, his boyish chutzpah and a lifelong appreciation for animals (even those he has killed).

Now 52, Mr. Kennedy, is one of the country's most prominent environmental lawyers and advocates. Clearly he was traumatized by his youthful act of environmental insensitivity and vowed as an adult to become a fervent protector of all the planet's salamanders. Or perhaps this is overreaching, seeing too much in a simple picture. (Sometimes a dead salamander is just a dead salamander). [...]

Recently, much of Mr. Kennedy's public focus has been on democracy, and he has taken increasingly audacious leaps into political swamps that transcend the environment. He roiled the blogosphere and cable news shows this month after declaring — in an article he wrote in Rolling Stone — that Republicans stole the 2004 presidential election through a series of voting frauds. "I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004," Mr. Kennedy wrote in the exhaustive, strenuously footnoted article, which relied heavily on the published research of others.

He has repeated the accusation on Air America, the liberal radio network on which he is co-host of a program, and on a procession of television talk-'n'-shout fests (with Stephen Colbert, Wolf Blitzer, Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews). Mr. Kennedy is hitching his iconic name to a cause that has largely been consigned so far to liberal bloggers and which nearly all Democratic leaders and major news media outlets have ignored and which, unsurprisingly, Bush supporters have ridiculed. Tracy Schmitt, the Republican National Committee press secretary, accused Mr. Kennedy of "peddling a conspiracy theory that was thoroughly debunked nearly two years ago."

Farhad Manjoo, of Salon.com, wrote: "If you do read the Kennedy article, be prepared to machete your way through numerous errors of interpretation and his deliberate omission of key bits of data."

It is impossible to read the Rolling Stone article without wondering how Mr. Kennedy's audacious accusations might relate to his philosophical evolution or even affect his political viability.

One of the more amusing things that gets the Left worked up about George W. Bush is that he blew up frogs when he was a kid. Apparently, it's considered normal by these folks to be so consumed with guilt about the rather normal mistreatment of critters in your youth that you become anti-human as an adult.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 25, 2006 11:42 AM

What hasn't been debunked is his uncle's stealing of the 1960 election.

Posted by: erp at June 25, 2006 12:02 PM

If John Kerry had grown up in my neighboorhood he would likely describe my friends and me like this:

"They told stories of times they had personally trapped lizards, cut off tails, cut off heads, boiled them down whole for their skeletons, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at chipmunks and birds, razed nests in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan."

Posted by: Patrick H at June 25, 2006 12:31 PM

I'm assuming RFK Jr. has opted to follow in his uncle Teddy's footsteps and secure himself the niche support of the same people who listen to Air America or watch Countdown on MSNBC. Not the best way to earn broad-based support, but a good tactic if your goal is to keep the donations from the hot button left coming in to your political action committee, so you have to spend as little of your own family's money on your career as possible.

Posted by: John at June 25, 2006 1:17 PM

Leibovich and his NYTimes editor seem to have mistaken the meaning of "exhaustive" for that of "exhausting". It's like Evelyn Waugh said, you can't get good copy editors any more ...

Posted by: pj at June 25, 2006 2:37 PM

Before writing this article, he wrote an article on autism and Thimerosal that was equally well researched.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 25, 2006 3:24 PM

Kennedy: the candidate of choice for voting, dead people from Chicago.

Posted by: lebeaux at June 25, 2006 6:30 PM